High cost of running group home gets attention at Capitol

Lawmakers want to know why the state is spending nearly a million dollars a year for one person to live in a house in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. 

Wednesday's hearing was scheduled after the Fox 9 Investigators revealed staff costs supporting the man in the house were $910,000.

This is all about trying to balance the needs of that individual along with the exorbitant cost to taxpayers and the safety concerns of a neighborhood. Some neighbors have talked about arming themselves.

An 18-year-old man whose initials are W.O. was placed in the home last summer by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

He's a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome and child abuse, has developmental  disabilities and struggles with violent behavior.

At least three state workers are assigned to be with him around the clock trying to help him adjust to living in a community setting.

Police have been called to the home at least 46 times because staff were unable to control the man's outbursts.

"I worry this home is setting an officer up for failure, where there is a potential for confrontations," said Coon Rapids Police Chief Brad Wise.

He testified in front of a state Senate Human Services Reform Committee at the Capitol.

"We don't do this lightly. These individuals have not had other placements that have worked," said Chuck Johnson, deputy commissioner at DHS.

The Fox 9 Investigators found there are six other group homes run by the state that also have just one person in them. The average cost to staff each of those homes, including the one in Coon Rapids, is $885,000 a year.

Neighbors and the City of Coon Rapids want W.O. placed in a more secure location. DHS said he has a right to live there.

The bigger question now is, do the rights of one individual trump those of an entire neighborhood?